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Now a full week after the fire started, the MV X-Press Pearl continues to burn at an anchorage off Colombo, Sri Lanka.
As of Thursday morning, heavy smoke and small flames continued to be observed from the ship, according to an update from the Sri Lankan Navy. Fire-fighting efforts are continuing on multiple fronts with assistance of the Indian Coast Guard.
Meanwhile, the Navy is coordinating with the country’s Marine Environment Protection Authority on the environmental response, including along the Sri Lanka’s shoreline where fire-burned containers and other debris has washed up.
The ship’s operator, X-Press Feeders, confirms that firefighting operations to extinguish the blaze aboard the vessel have continued through today despite ongoing adverse weather conditions.
“Firefighting tugs have constantly been spraying and misting the stricken vessel with support from the Sri Lankan Navy and Indian coastguard, who remain on scene. The ship remains at anchor off Colombo port,” the company said in an update.
The fire on the X-Press Pearl was first reported last Thursday, May 20, after the ship arrived at a Colombo anchorage approximately 9.5 miles from the entrance to the harbor. The ship remains at anchor in the same spot.
The video below shows the vessel as of Thursday morning:
The fire is believed to have started due to a chemical reaction of a Nitric Acid cargo which it had loaded at the port of Hazira, India on May 15. While dousing the fire appeared to be successful initially, the fire exploded in intensity on Tuesday and all 25 crew members and a salvage team from SMIT were evacuated from the ship.
Two crew members were injured in the evacuation and an update from the operator today said one of them has tested positive for COVID-19.
“The crew member who was transferred to a special facility in a military hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 remains asymptomatic and is recovering from a leg injury sustained during his evacuation from the vessel. A second injured crew member continues to recover from his injuries in a local hospital. All other crew members remain in a Colombo quarantine facility and are in good health and are in contact with their families,” X-Press Feeders said in today’s update.
Also of note, the company says reports that the ship was denied refuge in India and Qatar after an acid leak was discovered were incorrect.
“Please note, reports that the vessel was denied entry into Hazira Port in India and Hamad Port in Qatar are incorrect. The vessel underwent discharge and loading operations in both ports before continuing on its planned journey to Colombo. Applications had been made to both ports to offload a container that was leaking nitric acid but the advice given was there were no specialist facilities or expertise immediately available to deal with the leaking acid,” the company clarified.
Reporting indicates the vessel owners have declared General Average and the 3-month-old ship, delivered only in February, is a total constructive loss.
The question now is whether or not the ship will stay afloat.
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